Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Iconic movies directed by nobodies

Not all great movies have great directors.

This may be sort of obvious, but that doesn't mean it's any less surprising when you note that a particular classic was directed by someone you've never heard of.

Of course, some of this can come from simple ignorance. For the longest time I thought "Casablanca is directed by Michael Curtiz? How random." It was only later that I learned that Curtiz had, in fact, directed 173 films over a nearly 50-year career, including well-known films like Angels With Dirty Faces and Yankee Doodle Dandy. I just hadn't heard of him yet when I found out he directed Casablanca.

Then sometimes the name just sounds funny. Like, it doesn't sound like the name of a director.

Then there are those where the person really is, basically, a nobody.

Interestingly, the inspiration for this post was not an iconic film. I was doing one of my endless categorization projects when I discovered that the movie Less Than Zero -- a noteworthy film from the 1980s, but nothing more -- was directed by someone named Marek Kanievska. I don't know who I expected to have directed Less Than Zero, but let's just say that Marek Kanievska wasn't it. Kanievska did also direct a Paul Newman movie -- 2000's Where the Money Is -- but his other three features are considerably lesser known.

So without further ado, a quick and dirty list of ten movies that are far more iconic than Less Than Zero, directed by people far who are far more of a zero than Marek Kanievska. And though I've organized it as a countdown from 10, the order is basically random.

10. Risky Business (1983, Paul Brickman) - So just who the hell is Paul Brickman? I'm not sure Mrs. Brickman, his mother, knows. Despite the popularity of Risky Business, Brickman directed only one more movie (Men Don't Leave), though he did also write the Clint Eastwood movie True Crime.

9. Return of the Jedi (1983, Richard Marquand) - Star Wars fans know who Marquand is because he, like, directed one of the original three movies. Other than that? He's an answer to a trivia question. He actually has 12 directing credits, including Eye of the Needle and Jagged Edge. But really, Richard Who?

8. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011, Rupert Wyatt) - Who's that? I actually know because I saw his little-seen 2009 movie The Escapist, but Wyatt was not asked back for the sequel despite delivering bigtime on Rise. He does have a Mark Wahlberg movie coming out next year, though.

7. Chariots of Fire (1981, Hugh Hudson) - Hugh Who? Hudson also directed Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, but has otherwise been mostly absent from prominent feature filmmaking. This despite the fact that Chariots won best picture.

6. So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993, Thomas Schlamme) - Schlamme? Lame. A prolific TV director, Schlamme has only directed this one feature film. That's especially strange considering that a lot of people consider this to be a cult classic.

5. American History X (1998, Tony Kaye) - O-Kaye ... no idea who this guy is. Has never made another film that I've heard of.

4. Roger Dodger (2002, Dylan Kidd) - The movie that introduced Jesse Eisenberg and got raves for Campbell Scott didn't do much for Dylan Kidd. He has directed only one more feature (P.S. in 2004), but does have a movie coming out later this year.

3. Field of Dreams (1989, Phil Alden Robinson) - This one is a little bit of a cheat, because Robinson had a decent (if short) career that also included Sneakers and The Sum of All Fears. Dreams is so great, though, that it really seems like someone else should have been at the helm.

2. Mr. Mom (1983, Stan Dragoti) - Mr. Mom is no iconic film, but I'm including this one mostly for how little "Stan Dragoti" sounds like a real person, let alone the director of such films as The Man With One Red Shoe, Necessary Roughness and She's Out of Control. Fun fact, though: He was the first husband of Cheryl Tiegs.

1. Grease (1978, Randal Kleiser). Kleiser actually has 29 directing credits, including The Blue Lagoon, Big Top Pee-wee and Honey I Blew Up the Kid. But he sounds a lot more like a nerd with a pocket protector than the guy who shepherded an icon of cool, Danny Zuko, to the big screen.

Any funny examples to add?

I thought I'd include a few more honorable mentions of people who just don't sound like directors:

Andrew V. McLaglen (McLintock!)
Lou Adler (Up in Smoke)
Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3)
Jamie Uys (The Gods Must Be Crazy)
Louie Psihoyos (The Cove)
Gabriela Cowperthwaite (Blackfish)

And a trifecta of directors from Disney's heyday: Wolfgang Reitherman (Robin Hood), Hamilton Luske (Pinocchio) and Clyde Geronimi (Cinderella). I was once going to write a whole post about the funny names of Disney directors, but then never did.

Great ... now I've got that out of my system.


Don Handsome said...

Kaye is a victim of being too idealistic. He almost Alan Smitheed American History X because he felt he lost control of the film to Norton. And since then he's sort of been Nortoned and just doesn't work much. But his films are all really idealistic and fairly important and should be seen (I've seen 3 of the 4). Lake of Fire, I think was nominated (or at least shortlisted) for an Oscar. Its one of the most powerful documentaries I've ever seen.

The dude also just looks crazy.

I want him to work more.

Vancetastic said...

This was an exercise destined to expose me as a philistine who had not heard of at least one genuinely talented indie director. I guess Tony Kaye was it. Just don't tell me that Stan Dragoti is an auteur. I won't believe you.

Nick Prigge said...

Oh, Hugh Hudson. Don't forget "Revolution"! His epic Al Pacino Revolutionary War film! forget.

You know who comes to mind with this query? John Singleton. He's still known, I guess, and he works and does stuff, but did he ever come even sort of close to re-capturing the quality of "Boyz n the Hood"?

Vancetastic said...

Well, Singleton has been quite prolific and BECAUSE of Boyz N the Hood, I think there has been enough attention paid to him each time his movies come out for him to exceed the informal requirements I've set up here. However, it's true that Boyz N the Hood was a career pinnacle -- a very early career pinnacle.

I did forget Revolution, because I have not seen it. Though I am vaguely aware of it.